August 22, 2008

Catching a Healthy Life


Coweta and Wagoner schools adopt a nutrition and exercise program.

Even the superintendent of Coweta Public Schools expects his youngest children, Hanna and Hunter, to teach him a thing or two about healthy nutrition and exercise.

"They will be nagging me, I know," said Jeff Holmes, who was on hand to announce that Coweta and Wagoner Public Schools started the CATCH program this year. "My 13-year-old son, Hayden, will probably put his two cents' worth, too."

CATCH, which stands for Coordinated Approach to Child Health, is a nutrition and exercise program coordinated among community leaders and school systems. It is an evidence-based method of reducing obesity among children, who then teach their families what they have learned, said Peter Cribb, national CATCH director.

"This program helps teach children and families to be healthy for a lifetime," he said.

Recently, St. Francis Health System gave the Wagoner County Health Department a check for $130,000 to implement the program in all four county school systems. It is for children from prekindergarten to fifth grade.

The program is free to schools, allowing them to use informational materials to teach children about picking the right foods to eat and exercising more. The schools also incorporate those healthy food choices into their school menus and the physical education classes offer more vigorous exercises.

"It's nice to see the kids doing the nutrition and exercise, but it's great to see that they're having fun doing it," said Kerry Morgan, who heads the pediatric weight management program called Shape Down at St. Francis Hospital.

Another change schools make is to schedule recess before lunch, rather than after the meal.

"If you're going to have recess after lunch, the kids won't eat because they want to go outside," said Monica Stuart, school nurse at Wagoner Public Schools.

Two other Wagoner County schools systems -- Okay and Porter -- opted not to participate, even though the program is free.

"What better could you do but promote good nutrition and exercise?" said Dr. Ronnie Carr, a Coweta physician and member of the county Health Department board. "It could save your life."

He noted that 36.7 percent of Americans are considered obese, compared with 62.7 percent of the Oklahoma population. Wagoner County obesity is 66.7 percent.

"They tell us that the obesity is because of the lower socioeconomic status of our state," Carr said. "But that's the big fallacy. Healthy food costs the same or less than high-calorie, high- fat food."

When given the example of a poor family turning to 99-cent sandwiches because of their low cost, he replied, "Is it really cheaper than a salad that you make at home?"

Carr said the CATCH program is worth the effort because obesity leads to hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, strokes and cardiovascular disease. Those chronic diseases cost millions of dollars in medical costs, he said.

Said Cribb, "This is doable. We can reverse this trend. It does take time and it takes people working together. But it can be done."

Kim Archer 581-8315

[email protected]

Originally published by KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer.

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